Collaborate to Solve the Real Problems Consumers Face

Let’s face it. The consumer landscape is changing rapidly and drastically. The focus of consumer demand and innovation has changed over the decades – from the emphasis on hardware in the 1970s, to software in the 1990s, and network in the 2000s, and today, on experience.

New expectations have been created for the global market, and it is critical for us to design experiences to keep up with the changes. New knowledge and skills are needed to solve unframed problems that have sprung up with the times,

Over the decades, the nature of ‘work’ has shifted from an ‘alone-work’ model, to ‘single-discipline’ work, to ’cross-discipline’ teamwork because of the rise of complex and unframed problems that call for cross-discipline collaboration to solve. Collaboration has become the new imperative. It is thus necessary to come up with new ways of working, thinking, and innovating.

Thierry Do, co-founder at FreshlyGround, mentioned in his speaker session on ‘The Collaborative Economy: Adapt or Be Redundant’ as part of the SkillsFuture Festival Executive Series @WeWork co-organised by Emergenetics Asia Pacific and Lifelong Learning Institute, that in order to encourage sustainable innovation, corporations have taken up Design Thinking methodology to have the first-mover competitive advantage.

We often hear others saying that it is technology that disrupts the various industries, but in Thierry’s opinion, a company disrupts an industry by being the first one to listen to and fully understand its consumers’ pain points and to solve them using user-centric approaches. At this point in time, I found myself nodding in full agreement with Thierry’s sharing. Being in the customer experience team at Emergenetics APAC, the one mantra that I have always used while crafting solutions is ‘What would the customer want?’ instead of projecting what our company wants onto the consumers. We believe in creating not just solutions, but experiences for our customers, be it internal or external.

So, what is design thinking exactly? It is essentially a collaborative and iterative process that uses a user-centric approach to create solutions. We first start by understanding user needs, followed by exploring various concepts and solutions, and finally to test what we have explored, improving things along the way. Design thinking calls for collaboration across departments, which is key in powering innovation, gaining fresh perspectives, and approaching problems differently. It helps companies innovate more effectively by uncovering their consumers’ unmet needs, wants, and desires.

FreshlyGround believes that it is important for organisations to adopt good design thinking to drive growth and transformation, and has been conducting organisation-wide Design Thinking courses in both Singapore and Japan for private and government organisations. With a wealth of knowledge on this topic, Thierry shared useful tips on adopting Design Thinking:

  1. Understand user needs – Always put consumer first, and remove any assumptions you have of what they want because that might not be accurate
  2. Gain collaborative working spirit
  3. Break down unframed problems and complex issues, then make sense of it before finding opportunities to solve them
  4. Test your concepts and fail early and cheaply
  5. Always validate assumptions and test them out
  6. The process of Design Thinking (Understanding user needs, exploring concepts, and testing them) does not have to be linear. It is essentially a mindset, not a tool.

This session has once again reminded me of the importance of collaboration and putting customers first, and that the starting point to creating solutions is with the fundamental question of ‘What is it that my customers really want?’. In some ways, because my team and I have the Emergenetics Profile to glean insights from into how people tend to think and behave, and we are accustomed to using the WEapproach (considering viewpoints from all angles and preferences) when we brainstorm or solve problems, I see how collaboration and being consumer-centric is second nature to us. Our challenge now is to help more of our clients see and practise the same, so they can be more effective at solving the real problems their consumers face – and stay ahead of the competition.

This article was originally published on the SkillsFuture Festival Executive Series @ WeWork

About the Speaker
Mr Thierry Do


Mr Thierry Do

Co-Founder, Customer Experience Maker,

Through an atypical career path that spanned over two decades and three continents, Thierry has honed his skills as customer experience maker by deepening his understanding of cultures and people.

His experiences include working on the interior design of the first French high-speed train TGV Duplex and infusing people-led innovation culture in large corporations. Thierry is the co-founder of FreshlyGround, a people-led innovation agency co-creating customer experiences and brand strategies.